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Mao, the Card Game
Best viewed in 800x600 HiColor (16-bit) resolution or better with Netscape 3 while in a comfortable chair, sipping a piña colada.

         Also called Dictator (to match the "correct" name for Asshole, President, and the second name for Napoleon, Emperor), Mao is a game that was introduced to my high school a number of years ago. Mao uses a standard deck of cards, but is best with two or three decks. Based on the popular UnoTM game, Mao is a fast pased game which is played like Crazy Eights. The object of the game is to have an empty hand. The game is best when most players are unsure of the exact rules and/or drunk. The beauty of the game comes with not knowing all of the rules; playing or ruling incorrectly or in an unsatisfactory manner is cause for a penalty of one or more cards added to your hand.
         Aside from its structual base (from Uno), Mao's rules are drawn as a parody of Communist China, named after its father, Mao Zedong. Players are uncertain of the rules (laws) and are penalized for not following them appropiately. The rules (laws) are strict and orderly, and there is much chaos. The rules are not written on the cards (the way they are in Uno--the "Draw Two" card is a seven, for example). If the rules are broken, the player is corrected with no explanation (beyond that of the call), and receives a penalty (usually in the form of being dealt an extra card). In some versions of the game, there is a marginal line of corruption; players can cheat by hiding cards (but never one of the last three). The penalty for cheating is three cards.
         The point of the game is to leave. Since communism is "evil," you have to beat the system to leave, be it by cheating or playing by the rules. It is difficult to leave the game; you have to announce when you have only one card, and you have to be the first to slap the pile after you play your last card (in some circles, you have to yell "free," "done," "out," or "finished" before playing the card).
         Before I begin explaining the rules, I should state that I am not trying to be anti-ethnic or racist. I'm not trying to be anti-communist, either. I am part Chinese myself and have strong support for a true communist government. Unfortunately, the world has never seen one outside the Israeli Kibutzim. This game is a parody to the struggles and lifestyles of Communist China. Please do not send me pro-ethnic letters, I did not invent this game and I do not play it for its hate crime content.
         Deal: The deck for this game is a standard deck of cards, with or without jokers. If there are more than five players (recommended), two decks are preferable. There should be about one deck for every three or four people, but never more than four jokers. The deck is shuffled (at least three rifle/riffle shuffles--thanks, WoTC). The person to the dealer's left cuts and the dealer deals counterclockwise from his or her right (no penalties for mistakes yet). As soon as the dealer deals the first card, the game has begun. Any player who views any part of his or her hand before the dealer sees his or her own hand gets an extra card. If the dealer messes up and reveals a card, the penalty goes to the dealer and the card is exchanged for a new unknown card from the deck before it is reshuffled. Each player (initially) gets seven cards. If more than half of the deck would be dealt out, each player gets only five cards (there must be room for many penalties). The remaining cards are put in the center of the table (equal in distance from all players--essential for slapping the pile) and the first card is flipped over next to the pile, in the dead center of the table. No player may move the pile outside a point of order unless restocking the deck. The dealer views his or her hand and play begins. There is no penalty for the dealer if he or she views his or her hand before this process is completed.
         Play: The person to the dealer's right goes first (hey, this is China--everything is backwards). The player must play a card of the same rank or suit, draw a card, or play a jack (or joker; see "special cards," below). Once a jack is played, the first suit that is announced is the new suit. Play goes counterclockwise until an eight is played, as an eight is the equivalent of the "Reverse" in Uno. Players play in order unless an ace is played; the ace is Uno's "Skip." There are other specialty cards, but they don't distrupt the order of play. When the deck is exausted, the discard pile is either flipped or shuffled then flipped. Only the top card stays (if there are multiple sevens, the player must remember how many there are; see "special cards" below. If at any time there are no cards left to be flipped, all "lost" cards are returned to the deck, no questions asked. Players cannot cheat by "returning" cards from their hands, only accidentally dropped cards or cards stashed by cheating (as per the rules) may be returned. In some circles, if there are still not enough cards to penalize a person, the person with the most cards is "executed;" removed from the game. His or her cards are shuffled into the deck. If this rule is not used, the penalty is not called. Players must be more conservative calling penalties. Another deck could also be shuffled in.
         End: When a player plays his or her second-to-last card, he or she must announce "last card." If the call is missed, and another player has played a card, another person can announce it, invoking a four card penalty on the person with one card. Some circles make this more of a contest; any person can yell "last card" as soon as the card is played. If the caller is not the player then the penalty is invoked. When the last card is played, the player must be the first to slap the discard pile or get a five card penalty. In some circles, the player must first call "free," "done," "out," or "finished" before playing the card. If the player has successfully "escaped," the game is over. In some circles, the game continues until there are only three players (or even one). In rare cases, escaped players are allowed to make calls.


Special Cards

Extra Rules (all optional)

New! Mao on the net!

         Every rule has a good reason for being in the game. Sure, some are just silly, but isn't that the point? That "communism" is screwed up? Many of the "silly" rules are actually in the game to get rid of annoying people, from those outside the game, saying "what are you playing" constantly, to those inside the game who aren't paying attention. Most rules are in the game to confuse the players, which is the point of the game. Playing groups should be encouraged to make their own house rules to add to the game and should pick a handful of rules from the optional rules presented here. Veterans of the game will find Points of Order necessary, and will find the game completely different when including/excluding the cheating rules.
         Along with Bridge, Napoleon (a form of Spades/Pitch), Hearts, Bullshit, Asshole (also called Dalmuti, Corporate Shuffle (with Dilbert), President-look, its a evaluationware comuter game now!), I see Mao as one of the best group (4+ people) games out there. Well, okay. So Bridge, Napoleon, Spades, and Hearts (the trick-based games) aren't silly/party games but rather games of real strategy. Bullshit, Asshole, and Mao are party games that require not thought but attention. As for small group (2-4 people) games, I see Canasta, Ginn/Ginn Rummy/Rummy 500, Egyptian War/Egyptian Ratscrew/Egyptian Ratfuck (a combination of War and Slapjack), and Hearts as the best (Hearts can be played with three people by removing the three of clubs).

© 1999 Khopesh, L+d.
Khopesh (
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